VSC trustees presented with vision of JSC’s future


This past Friday, Feb. 12, Johnson State College was visited by the Vermont State Colleges Board of Trustees.

President Elaine Collins was the first to address the assembled trustee members. A video about the talented team at JSC was shown first, accompanied by a peppy, upbeat tune.
In her 45-minute talk, split between Dan Regan, Sharron Scott and herself, Collins attempted to lay out to the board a clear vision of what Johnson State College is, and where it is headed in the next few years.

“So what is Johnson State College?” Collins asked. “In addition to the people here at the college, Johnson State College is known for its partnerships and its important role in promoting regional development.”

Collins then detailed how she conducted over 50 meetings with external groups, as well as over 100 internal groups.

“So what is Johnson State College?” A question often repeated by Collins, it served to outline everything that JSC is doing right. JSC is known for its creative problem solving, and its interest in making positive change, says Collins.

“I learned that there was a strong desire from faculty, staff and students to play a more active role in the decision-making processes of the college,” said Collins. “As such, we harnessed Johnson’s problem-solving ability into a shared governance model.”

Collins then went over the timeline of COPLAC at JSC, and where she hoped the college would be by late April or early May. COPLAC is the Council of Public Liberal Arts Colleges, which was founded in 1988, and is made up of 29 member institutions from 27 states. Being a member of COPLAC says that JSC is committed to providing quality liberal arts education, affordable to the public.

She recognized that JSC needed a bold and aggressive vision for the future to ensure long term sustainability. JSC has been working with a consultant to identify areas of potential growth.
The areas of potential growth that Collins addressed were EDP enrollment, campus-based undergraduates, and graduate enrollment. EDP student count was predicted to rise from 490 up to 750 by the fall semester in 2018.

Likewise, the predicted growth of campus-based undergraduate students is predicted to rise from a current 920 to 1050 students in the fall of 2018, which is a 14 percent increase in student count. This undergraduate count also includes transfers, readmitted students and students of the early college program. The graduate enrollment is projected to rise from 177 to around 275 students.

Collins noted that the strategies necessary to ensure this rise in students include continuing a strong relationship with CCV, extending reach to out of state students, revamping current business practices to emphasize speed, creating new programs, and making tuition for out of state students more competitive.
As a result of all these efforts, Johnson State College has seen an increase in both campus undergraduate applications and early college applications for the 2016 Fall Semester. Undergraduate applications have risen by 29 percent and the early college applications by 30 percent. There has also been a 4 percent decrease in academic dismissals and probations. “These are concrete measures signalling that we are moving in the right direction,” said Collins.

After Collins was finished talking, she gave over the podium to Dan Regan, who talked about JSC finding its niche in the world of public education, and within the state of Vermont. “Our niche is neither as a private liberal arts college, nor as public university,” said Regan. “Rather, we aspire to be the premier public liberal arts college in Vermont.”

Regan then reassured the trustees that having a liberal arts degree wasn’t a drawback in modern society, citing the report: “It takes more than a major- employer priorities for college learning and student success.”

There are 10 well-recognized high impact practices that have been shown to be beneficial to college students from many backgrounds. While Regan didn’t present all 10 of the high impact practices, he did share a few. These practices include first-year seminars and experiences, internships, undergraduate research, and learning communities.

Of those practices, internships are among the more important ones. 70 percent of the 2014 graduates said that the internships they completed were crucial to job search success. 21 percent of the students who completed their internships are currently employed at their internship sites, with a further 24 percent receiving job offers from their internship sites who then declined, and 25 percent reported being hired elsewhere due to their internship experiences.

Regan concluded by asking how JSC goes about offering a high quality liberal arts education, while still maintaining the college’s identity of an institution that “opens wide the doors of higher education,” appeals to the trustees who are able to help see this dream realized.
Following Regan was Sharron Scott, who said that JSC will conclude the fiscal year with an approximate deficit of $975,000. This deficit is due in part to a smaller-than-budgeted incoming class, as well as a smaller-than-budgeted group of EDP students.

“Since fiscal year 2012, JSC has reduced its expenses by approximately $3.2 million, and the savings were divided, nearly equally, between three categories: wages and benefits, supplies and services, and deferred maintenance of our facilities and equipment,” said Scott. Any further financial cuts could result in fewer students coming to the college.

“We aim to boost the college’s enrollment from a current 920 students in the fall of 2015, to 2,078 in the fall of 2018,” said Scott.

After Scott was finished, Collins concluded the presentation with a Q&A, which touched upon issues such as expansion of graduate programs, financial aid discounting, and early college students.
When the session was completed, there was a brief break followed by a student panel, comprised of current JSC students, and alums. After the student panel, the trustees made their way over to Bentley Hall, where  the trustees viewed scientific posters on display, and then to dinner. Following dinner, the trustees were shown the production of the play “Eurydice,” written by Sarah Ruhl.